By Mary Cunningham
You could feel the mood in the Verizon Center turning sour.
The Washington Caps are in the Easter conference finals for the first time in 20 years.
And they look like they are shakier than ever.
Alex Killorn scored the tiebreaker with about eight minutes left, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, and the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Capitals, 4-2, evening the series at two games apiece.
Killorn was left pretty much alone during a defensive breakdown by Washington and scored six seconds after a Tampa Bay power play expired, putting in a pass from Ondrej Palat.
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point scored Tampa Bay’s first two goals, and Anthony Cirelli added an empty-netter with a second left.
Washington’s goals came from Evgeny Kuznetsov — on an assist by Alex Ovechkin — and defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
The Lightning host Game 5 on Saturday night, with Game 6 back in Washington on Monday.
The road team has won every game in the series so far.
The Capitals fell to 3-5 at home during these playoffs — and even got booed late in the first period, which ended with the Lightning ahead, 2-1.
The Lightning won Game 4 despite going nearly 21 full minutes of game time — the last 10 minutes 41 seconds of the first period, followed by the initial 10:11 of the second — without putting a single official shot on net. And they won even though the Capitals finally got back center Nicklas Backstrom, who was third on the team in points this season behind Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Backstrom had missed four games in a row with an injured right hand.
One key: Vasilevskiy played just like the Vezina Trophy finalist he is. He was spectacular at times, making stops against Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway and Backstrom from the doorstep in the second period. Early in the third, Vasilevskiy used his left glove to swat away a try from Brett Connolly.
After one flubbed chance, Ovechkin threw his head back and looked up, the very picture of disappointment.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby didn’t need to make nearly as many saves, given the shot discrepancy: Washington ended up with 38 to Tampa Bay’s 20.